How the Saw Lady Spends Her Sundays
“To most people, the concept of playing a musical saw is akin to chopping a log in half with a cello,” said Natalia Paruz, also known as the Saw Lady, who often plays a toothless saw in the subways and other public venues.
“They associate the saw, not with music and poetry, but with destruction and deforestation,” she said. “There is a destructive and creative side to everything in life. It’s all in what you choose to see.”
Born in a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel, Ms. Paruz spent her childhood in Germany, Switzerland, France, England and New York City. She studied piano, guitar and dance. But after attending a saw performance in Austria, she was hooked.
Ms. Paruz, 45, lives in an Edwardian house in Astoria, Queens, with her husband, the composer Scott Munson, four indoor cats — Junjoon, Itsy-Bitsy, Stashi and Tooli — two outdoor cats, Blackie and Grandma, antique furnishings and a collection of about 20 musical saws. “I’ve never counted the saws,” she said, “but I know there are at least that many.”
RING IN THE DAY I don’t have the opportunity to sleep in on Sundays, but I don’t mind because I get to do one of my favorite things: perform as a bell ringer at Trinity Lutheran Church. Although the service begins at 10:30 a.m., I’m there sometimes as early as 9:30 a.m. for rehearsals. Mostly I ring as a soloist, performing traditional hymns. When the service ends at noon, I teach kids and adults to ring peals and processionals. I arrange music that was written for other instruments to fit the bells and the number of ringers we have. I love teaching these pieces because they are short, concise and functional within the context of a church service. I also rehearse with the handbell choir.
ALTAR INSPIRATION After the bell ringing, I help with the altar guild functions, simply because I love handling the communion vessels. The silver chalices and pitchers and the ornate woodwork of the altar bring magic to the atmosphere. Arranging things on the altar often gives me ideas for my short films, which focus on death. I’ve always had a fascination with death, because I grew up accompanied by ghosts. My father’s family was killed in the Holocaust, and my mother died young. These films are a way for me to divulge all my deathly thoughts. They are therapeutic for me and, I’m told, for many of those who view them. In my latest film, I portray an angel preparing for worship as mentioned in the kabbalah. The angel’s voice will be sung by my musical saw, playing music composed by my husband.
QUICK BITE By the time I leave the church, it’s 3 p.m., so I head home for what I call brunch but what most people would probably consider a snack. I generally have a hard-boiled egg, toast and some salad.
YARD WORK The rest of the afternoon is devoted to chores. I water the plants in my indoor flowerpots. There is always some yard work — watering plants in the front and back gardens, raking leaves, trimming (I have to keep my eye on the myrtle and mint because they are superspreaders) and tying up plants. Trimming the Virginia creeper that covers the arch over the front gate is my favorite garden task. We also have a vegetable garden; there are tomatoes, hot peppers and radishes. It’s not all work, though. When I’m in the front yard, it’s a wonderful excuse to chat with passing neighbors and pet their dogs.
FEATHERED FRIENDS One of my main year-round outdoor tasks is feeding the birds. We have three feeders, two in the back and one in the front. It’s fun to see the birds watching me prepare their food. They know. In addition to blue jays, cardinals, robins, finches and doves, there are a couple of pigeons who have become very friendly. They come to me even as I’m filling the feeder. They are always together, so I think they are husband and wife. I’ve named them Perry and Sterry because together they make peristeri, the Greek word for pigeon.
SAW CARE I spend a fair amount of time going over new music that I will play during the week and charging the batteries of my performance gear, which includes an amp and MP3 player, for my Monday performances. This is also the time that I clean my saw. It’s a really simple, swift process. I use the finest-grade sandpaper on the blade to remove any rust that may have accumulated. Rust takes away from the sound, and if you let it stay too long, it settles deep into the metal, reducing the playability.
HOME COOKING We don’t eat dinner out on any day of the week. My husband does the cooking because he’s a much better cook and he enjoys it, at least most of the time. I used to cook, but he took over such a long time ago that I don’t even remember how. My contribution is cleaning up and washing the dishes afterward. The menu can be anything from pulled pork with cooked vegetables to breaded chicken, which just happens to be my favorite.
VINTAGE VIEWING As the day ends, we settle in to watch TV in our small sitting room with our cats. We have a subscription to BritBox, and we like BBC costume dramas. We’re in the middle of “The House of Eliott,” which is about two sisters in 1920s London who have a dressmaking business. I also sometimes read before bed. Right now, I’m reading “York,” an adventure series for children by Laura Ruby. There are three books, and I’m just finishing up number two. They are about New York in the 1800s and in the future, and even though they are for children, I love the way she describes places.
BED MATES We turn out the lights around midnight. It’s a bit crowded in our bed with Junjoon, Itsy-Bitsy, Stashi and Tooli.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Natalia Paruz on Instagram @TheSawLady and on Twitter @SawLady.
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